The wife of the longest serving councillor in Crawley has been “overwhelmed” by the reaction to her husband’s death.
Bert Crane, 87, died on February 10. He had served on Crawley Borough Council and its predecessor Crawley Urban District Council for 58 consecutive years.
After hearing about the messages of respect and condolence which have been streaming into the town hall, his wife, Valerie, 75, said: “I’ve been quite overwhelmed. I didn’t realise the strength of feeling there was for him.
“He’s been off the council for three years so I was really quite surprised.”
Valerie said Bert had been diagnosed with vascular dementia and later contracted pneumonia.
The family didn’t notice at first that something was wrong – as Valerie said, he had always been a bit vague when people spoke to him unless it concerned politics or the Labour party or the unions.
She said: “He was dozing a lot and his mobility was worse but you tend to think, when some one is in their 80s, you don’t connect it with something being wrong.
“I put it down to him getting a bit ancient.”
Valerie said Bert’s health took a turn for the worse after he had a couple of falls in November.
While he was still able to play cards with the family on Boxing Day, his body and mind were slowing down.
Valerie said: “Things were slowing up and going wrong because, according to the doctors, his brain was unlearning all the things it had learned earlier.
“With someone like him, who was a brain person with a perceptive mind that would flit from one subject to another, it was closing down. So I’m glad he didn’t live long enough to notice this.”
Describing Bert’s 58-year love affair with Crawley, she said: “He was very proud of Crawley and was so proud of being in at the beginning.
“When he first got on the council, Crawley was such a young town and I think the fact he had the opportunity to make his mark with the town and be instrumental in seeing it grow the way he wanted to – that’s why it became such a big thing in his life.
“The fact he was in at the beginning made it so important to him.”
A memorial service will be held at the town hall on Tuesday March 3 at 11.30am followed by a funeral service at the Surrey & Sussex Crematorium at 1.30pm.
Valerie said: “I know there are a lot of people who want to pay their respects to Bert, so all are welcome.”